Breakups of any nature are hard. But friendship breakups? They’re a whole new level of pain. Especially when you don’t see it coming. It hurts to lose a friend that you thought you were really close to.
I’ve been through my fair share of friendship breakups. Some I saw coming, some I initiated, and some hit me like a bullet I’d never have seen coming. There are many ways of delivering this horrible news (sometimes people prefer to ghost entirely to avoid confrontation), but the one that is the absolute worst is when people use pseudo-therapeutic narratives or therapy-speak with no empathy for the person on the receiving end.
Therapy-speak, in the most basic sense, is the language you would normally hear in a psychologist or a therapist’s office. They are generic phrases commonly suggested by therapists.
“I’ve treasured our season of friendship but we’re moving in different directions in life. I don’t have the capacity to invest in our friendship any longer,” she says in the video.
“I just wanted to be honest and upfront so I don’t disappoint your expectations. I’m sorry if this feels painful and confusing. I wish you all the love and success,” the video continues.
The prompt that she leaves for people to follow actually feels damaging and unsympathetic, with one comment under the post stating it feels like talking to an HR rep.
Watching this TikTok made me wonder if this really is a good way to break a friendship off. I’ve had someone I considered a friend break our friendship using words similar to the video, and I can safely say it does more harm than good.
The person giving the speech thinks they’re doing the “right thing” and saying it the “right way”, which leaves them free of guilt. But in reality, it is a simple cop out that ends up causing more damage to the person on the receiving end. It is also extremely emotionally traumatising, and affects all your other friendships and relationships.
My “friend” gave me no clear reason for ending our friendship. Nor did she tell me what went wrong. All she did was rid herself of the guilt and leave no room for empathy for me, who had to see all of this unfold over text.
“Ending a friendship can feel very abandoning to the receiving end. Having that in mind, using ‘therapy speak’ to communicate your decision on ending the friendship can make the other person feel even worse,” says relationship expert Callisto Adams.
“This is due to the formal tone, and the imposition of a restricted reaction to your decision. You’re there maintaining your peace and calm, but also expect them to respond calmly and peacefully handle a piece of very hurtful information. It’s not fair,” she adds.
Hiding behind therapy-speak often comes across as a cop out, and feels incredibly inauthentic due to the monotonous nature of the speech.
“Using therapy-speak when ending a friendship can actually be detrimental in some cases because it doesn’t come from an authentic place. If you just go through the motions rather than speak from your heart, it can leave your friend feeling even more hurt and confused. They might feel like you don’t respect them enough to tell them the truth or that the friendship didn’t mean anything to you,” says relationship expert and founder of So Syncd Jessica Alderson.
“Therapy-speak can also make it sound like ending a friendship is a clinical decision rather than a personal one. Instead, try to speak honestly and openly about why the friendship isn’t working for you,” she adds.
So if you do actually want to end a friendship, what is the nice, respectful way of going about it? Empathy plays a key role, says intuitive relationship teacher Chengi Tobun — something therapy-speak lacks.
“Empathy is essential for loving communication which gives others the right to not like or accept what we have to say. It helps us hold space when the other needs to react or respond without us feeling that we have to take responsibility for how they feel and enter into a co-dependency where their internal state becomes our duty to resolve,” she says.
It is also important to be upfront and honest, and explain why it is necessary for both of you, says sex and relationship expert at condoms.uk Pippa Murphy. Alternatively, if you feel uncomfortable or are afraid of the outcome of the above stated method, slowly phase the friendship out.
“Not only will this make the process easier but there could even be a chance that the toxicity of the friendship begins to fade, and you get to have your old more positive friendship back,” she says.